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Mark Pearl


Aims of this chapter

  • Explain what is meant by the problem space
  • Explain how to conceptualize interaction
  • Describe what a conceptual model is and how to begin to formulate one
  • Discuss the pros and cons of using interface metaphors as part of a conceptual model
  • Outline the core interaction types for informing the development of a conceptual model
  • Introduce theories, models, and frameworks as a way of informing interaction design


Understanding the problem space

Problem space - Understand and conceptualize what is currently the user experience/product and how this is going to be improved or changed.

Different people have different perspectives, defining a problem space is usually best done by a group of different individuals.

Questions to ask…

  • Are there problems with an existing product or user experience?
  • Why do you think there are problems?
  • How do you think your proposed design ideas might overcome these?
  • If you have not identified any problems  and instead are designing for a new user experience how do you think your proposed design ideas support, change, or extend current ways of doing things?

Conceptualizing the design space

A conceptual model is a high level description of how a system is organized and operates.

The most important thing to design is the user’s conceptual model. Everything else should be subordinated to making that model clear, obvious, and substantial. That is almost exactly opposite to how most software is designed.

A conceptual model is an abstraction that outlines what people can do with a  product and what concepts are needed to understand how to interact with it.

Some things that a conceptual model could comprise of would include…

  • The major metaphors and analogies that are used to convey to the user how to understand what a product is for and how to use it for an activity.
  • The concepts that users are exposed to through the product, including the task domain objects they create and manipulate, their attributes, and the operations that can be performed on them.
  • The relationship between those concepts
  • The mappings between the concepts and the user experience the product is designed to support or invoke

The benefits of conceptualizing a design in general  terms early on in the design process encourages design teams to…

  • Orient themselves towards asking specific kinds of questions about how the conceptual model will be understood by the targeted users
  • Not to become narrowly focussed early on
  • To establish a set of common terms they all understand and agree upon, reducing the chance of misunderstandings and confusion arising later on

Interface metaphors and analogies

An interface metaphor is considered to be a central component of a conceptual model.

Interface metaphors are often composites – i.e. they combine quite different pieces of familiar knowledge with the system functionality – i.e. Desktop or Scrollbar or Toolbar

Opposition to using interface metaphors

A mistake often made is to make an interface metaphor behave/look exactly the same way as the real life object. Example of this would be implementing a computer calculator exactly the same way a real calculator is implemented – which would not make sense as the real calculator has constraints such as size and cost that a computer calculator would not have that effects the user experience (size and number of buttons).

Some reasons for opposition to using interface metaphors include…

  • Breaking the rules – i.e. recycle on the desktop whereas in real life it would be under the desktop
  • Too constraining – selecting a file form a list instead of searching for it
  • Conflicts with design principles
  • Not being able to understand the system functionality beyond the metaphor
  • Overly literal translation of existing bad designs
  • Limits the designers imagination in conjuring up new paradigms and models

Interaction types

Four fundamental types of interaction someone can have with a product/system

  1. Instructing – i.e. typing commands on a console
  2. Conversing – i.e. menu driven phone systems
  3. Manipulating – i.e. physical objects with rfid’s that a computer monitors the manipulation of
  4. Exploring – virtual 3d worlds i.e. sim city?

There are many other ways, however the four cover the main types.

Theories, Models, and Frameworks

Theories – numerous theories have been imported into human computer interaction, providing a means of analysing and predicting the performance of systems.

Models – Models are typically abstracted from a theory coming from a contributing discipline

Frameworks – a number of frameworks have been introduced in ID to help designers constrain and scope the user experience. Frameworks have traditionally been based on theories of human behaviour, but they are increasingly being developed from the experience of actual design practice and the findings arising from user studies.

Posted on Thursday, November 3, 2011 5:32 PM UNISA INF 3720 | Back to top

Comments on this post: INF3720 – Interaction Design Chapter 2 Summary

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thank you somuch this make it easy for me to understand chapter 2.Thankx
Left by SANELI on Aug 14, 2013 10:16 AM

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